It offers all of the scenery and none of the risk of being eaten by polar bears. Of course, it also offers none of the fresh air and thrill of actually being on a nine-day cruise ship trip around Svalbard … but it’s free and visitors can embark, disembark and even repeat favorite parts of the voyage as often as they like.
The virtual voyage aboard Hurtigruten’s M/S Spitsbergen departs from Longyearbyen Harbor at 6 p.m. Friday and continue until midnight Feb. 9 in the latest “slow TV” broadcast by NRK that have attracted widespread fame (and a bit of infamy) over the years. The show, which can be seen on TV in Norway and online worldwide at nrk.no/svalbard (the latter can of course be restreamed), ends on the same day as the 100-year-anniversary of the signing of the Svalbard Treaty.
“We believe that everyone has a dream relationship with Svalbard in one way or another,” said Thomas Hellum, project manager for the program, in an NRK article previewing the broadcast. “For many, a round trip is unattainable, but everyone can join in – from the couch. We will communicate the nature experience, the landscape and the wildlife. In addition, we will go ashore and see the remains of history.”
The actual voyage aboard the Spitsbergen, hailed by Hurtigruten for state-of-the-art environmental and polar region technology, took place in August of 2019. The trip aboard the 335-passenger ship cost a minimum of 72,800 kroner – or 7,493 Euro – per-person for a double occupancy cabin.
Unlike previous Minute-By-Minute shows, Svalbard cruise was not broadcast live because large parts of the archipelago don’t have existing telecommunications access and NRK didn’t have the budget to provide its own transmissions. The broadcast will feature images from a multitude of cameras at fixed locations as well as those used during shore excursions and other activities.
“Through 17 cameras, an abundance of stories, history and information, all accompanied by Norwegian and Sámi music, we offer viewers from all over the world the closest and most sustainable way possible to experience the real deal,” Hellum said. “This is the slowest – and at the same time the most amazing slow production so far.”
Since its debut in 2009 the “Minute By Minute” series has ranged from a long Arctic train trip to a three-month web broadcast of a bird feeder to an eight-hour telecast of a fireplace that earned (not entirely flattering) global headlines. A number of mainland cruises have also been featured, with a 2011 Hurtigruten voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes being a highpoint with 2.5 million viewers (half of Norway’s population) and setting a world record for the longest broadcast at 134 hours.
The day-by-day sailing schedule for the Svalbard cruise:
Longyearbyen – Lloyds Hotel
Lloyds Hotel – Smeerenburgodden
Smeerenburgodden – Bockfjorden
Bockfjorden – Murchinsonfjorden
Murchinsonfjorden – Hinlopenstredet
Hinlopenstredet – Boltodden
Boltodden – Burgerbukta
Burgerbukta – Recherchefjorden
Recherchefjorden – Nordenskiöldbreen